East Chicago, Indiana
Shantel Allen's two-year-old daughter Samira Allen's blood lead levels test results came back at 33, which is remarkably above the CDC’s 5 mg/d threshold for action. Allen said her whole family, including 5 young children, herself and her husband, have elevated lead levels. They plan to move to Las Vegas. “They show all the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning. They vomit randomly, have headaches,” she said.
The West Calumet Housing Complex, which is currently home to about 1,200 people, is located on a 79-acre Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site where a USS Lead facility was located in East Chicago, Indiana. Up until 1985, a lead refinery, a copper smelter and a secondary lead smelter were also in the area. The houses were built between the late 1960s and early 1970s.
East Chicago is zoned close to 80 percent heavy industrial, and the local government relies on the patronage, jobs and tax revenue that the oil and steel industries bring. However, many jobs disappeared when the steel industry modernized and shifted overseas in the late 20th century, leading to extensive job loss for the working class. People there have a long, complicated relationship with industry -- and its environmental legacy will affect generations to come.
Photo by Alyssa Schukar